Linguistic Problem Solving

Module Leader:
László Kálmán
2017-2018 Autumn
Natural Sciences

This module aims at introducing the essentials of linguistic structure through the discovery of regularities in actual data from various languages. In the first part of the module, students will solve actual puzzles, i.e., problems that can be settled solely on the basis of a carefully selected array of data. In the second part, they will have to gather and evaluate data themselves, and extract regularities from them. The aim is to cover the most basic types of problem that arise in connection with the phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics of human languages without introducing heavy theoretical machinery.

Although some of the problems can be seen as purely logical puzzles, since their medium is always the structure of some natural language, each problem illuminates some peculiarity that some human languages exhibit. Students will gain insights into how human languages are similar to and different from each other, and what devices they may use. At the same time, they will practice the essential methodology of gathering and assessing linguistic data.

This module is very useful, although not essential, for pursuing studies in linguistics later on. In addition, anyone interested in developing their logical and argumentative skills or interested in the world’s languages will benefit from taking it.